You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17.
A while back I was helping my daughter with an assignment on the Ten Commandments. She needed to make a drawing of the two stone tablets and list each of the commandments. As I was going over the commandments with her, making sure she understood what each of them meant, God spoke to my heart. Clearly.
Do not covet.
Do covet your neighbor.
Do not covet your neighbor’s things.
Do not covet your neighbor’s situation, education, family history, bank account, or spouse.
Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Right then and there, my mind reeled with the realization that I struggle with the sin of coveting. It doesn’t come out in the obvious ways, but it is a sickness deep inside me. The vileness comes pouring out quickly and I have to stuff down the quick-rising thoughts and sarcastic comments that just beg to come out of my mouth. Things such as,
“Yea, well, if I had that kind of money, I could do that too.”
“If my husband would just do ___________ like so and so, then I’d be able to get this done.”
“That’s a nice idea, but I don’t have people just rushing to do that for us.”
“If I had been brought up that way, I am sure I would be able to do that too.”
“If I just had _________ like ___________ then I am sure all would be well.”
“That’s nice for you to say, but I wasn’t handed life on a silver platter.”
God spoke gently, but sternly.
“Janet, you are coveting. And Janet…coveting is is discontent. It is saying and believing that I am not taking care of you, that I am not loving, that I am withholding My best from you. It is thinking that you need more, when in fact I have given you everything you need. To be discontent is to not trust me with your whole self, with your whole life. It is to think that you know what you need more than I do. It is a lack of faith. It is sin. Faithlessness is sin. Coveting is sin.”
Deep probings of the heart. Deep confessions in my soul. Deep prayers for God to help me say enthusiastically, “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” (Psalm 16:5-6).
So what does this have to do with parenting?
Well, a lot. But I will mention just three things.
1. When we covet, we give ourselves an excuse to not work harder. We tell ourselves things like,
“Well, she is so lucky to have a house like hers and mine sure isn’t that nice, so why even bother to try?”
“Well, my kids aren’t that perfect so there is no way I could even try that in our home.”
“She’s got so much time on her hands, of course she can _________. I’m not so lucky, so I guess I won’t.”
“I’m glad that works in her family, but my husband would never go for it. Oh well.”
“Well we certainly don’t have the kind of money they do. So there is no way we could ________ like they do. My few dollars wouldn’t even make a dent.”
“Well, if I only had two kids like she does, I am sure I could __________.”
It’s like we somehow think that if we can point out what we lack, we can then make excuses for our behavior (or lack thereof). By coveting, we essentially say, “I’ll do ________ when my situation looks like theirs.” We excuse away our stubbornness and our laziness instead of asking God to help us do what He has called us to do with the gifts He has given us. Instead of trusting that God has truly given us everything we need, we justify our inactivity and blind eyes with a pity party that dwells on all that we don’t have.
2. A covetous heart keeps us from seeing the overwhelming blessings that God has given us. When we spend our time and energy focusing on what God has given others, we miss the beauty right in front of us. If I covet someone’s elses ease with teaching their child to read, I am missing the beauty of seeing my son and the amazing way God made his brain work. If I am focusing on the financial blessings that God has given others, I miss the amazing stories of what He has allowed us to have and do and give on so little. If I long for the abilities that others have, I miss out on the opportunity to use the gifts that God has given me.
One of the unexpected blessings that have come out of my love for photography and scrapbooking is that I have learned to better see the small blessings in life. I have learned to see beauty in the everyday. I have learned to stop and look at the face in front of me and instead of seeing a messy inconvenience, I see a little person full of love and wonder and curiosity. I have learned to stop and watch my children play and breathe deep as I try to soak in the innocence of childhood happiness. God’s blessings are everywhere. I can’t turn my head without seeing an abundance of His goodness pouring out on me. But there is no way that I can see those blessings if I am too busy coveting your life.
3. Coveting teaches our kids to be dissatisfied and discontent with the life that God has chosen for them. If we point out what we long for in the lives of others, we are telling our kids that what we have is not enough. We are saying that God is not enough. It is telling them that happiness and fulfillment and joy comes from what other people have. And that is dangerous ground. It is a tangled web of sin that is not easy to escape.
A covetous heart is highly contagious, and if I don’t want my kids to have it, I need to eradicate it from my own soul.
So what am I doing to deal with this sin?
- I am being more intentional to truly see and thank God for the many blessings in my life.
- I am reminding myself that just because someone’s situation looks better from my vantage point, I don’t know the whole story.
- I am asking God for His help to be content. He has power over sin in a way that I never will.
- I am trying to remind myself that God has chosen my life and my kids and my house and my background and my gifts for ME. He has a plan and purpose in all that He has — and has not — given me.
- I am trying to remember that rather than a different situation, maybe what I really need is a just a new perspective on my current situation.
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, two small children, and his elderly parents in a tiny hut. He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and crowded conditions wore him down. In desperation, he consulted the village wise man. “Do you have a rooster?” asked the wise man. “Yes,” he replied. “Keep the rooster in the hut with your family, and come see me again next week.” The next week, the man returned and told the wise elder that living conditions were worse than ever, with the rooster crowing and making a mess of the hut. “Do you have a cow?” asked the wise elder. The man nodded fearfully. “Take your cow into the hut as well, and come see me in a week.” Over the next several weeks, the man–on the advice of the wise elder–made room for a goat, two dogs, and his brother’s children. Finally, he could take no more, and in a fit of anger, kicked out all the animals and guests, leaving only his wife, his children, and his parents. The home suddenly became spacious and quiet, and everyone lived happily ever after.